On a summer’s afternoon, I’ve spent time making lunch and then preparing for dinner for a friend who’s staying over this evening. Waking up at 7:30 am, I have absent-mindedly brushed my teeth to indie songs on my phone, taken a quick shower, made myself an iced coffee and listened to half a podcast. Like most days. All in all, I haven’t left home in about 19 days now. I mean, I have stepped out of my door to take the garbage out and I can tell from my window that it hasn’t been raining. But I’m not sure if the construction on the road to my apartment complex has ended yet; I’m not certain the elevator is working, if there is a taxi strike or if suddenly there has been a zombie outbreak and everyone I know has died. I am not in tune with the world outside or myself lately.
I am about to turn 23 years old this June and I’ve spent a majority of these years feeling very, very unhappy and scared. Over cups of coffee in restaurants, cross-legged on my bed while looking for something interesting to watch on Netflix, in social media posts, in a forty-five-minute talk about vulnerability and mental illness to college students – in telling and retelling my childhood, at some point, it started to become just a story. Instead of seeing it as real years spent in deep fear, I started to look at it as a plot to a film that I watched many years ago. I wish trauma was just a film I could cry over for a few hours and later forget about. Sadly, in reality, trauma stays with you for a long time until it is acknowledged, understood and processed.
Sitting in my bed this evening as the sun softens in the sky – here, things are not okay. The unwavering hopelessness in my head is convincing me that nothing is going to be alright.
Thankfully, in a wonderful turn of events when I realised I was not okay, I ended up in therapy during my senior year in high school. I was diagnosed with PTSD, with some signs of SPD and suddenly I had a clear direction to making a good life for myself. And so I followed where therapy took me – constructive journaling, building healthier coping skills, identifying triggers and advocating mental health. The nights of insomnia and suicidal thoughts became channelling my anxious energy into writing, destructive emotional responses became clear communication and helplessness turned into patience. After several years, I know I’m in a considerably better place and surrounded by nourishing people and media.
Yet, here I am in this familiar place of “doom” once again. Last week I was tending to a friend who had just been through a panic attack and had come to stay with me for a few days. She was tender, sensitive and I was equipped to provide her with tea, warmth, time and conversations to help her find clarity. All the while, I quietly dealt with this mind-numbing depression churning in my stomach. I have often found myself in the other end of “I really need to talk to someone right now” And oftentimes, I have been in the position to listen. My mental illness makes me a person who understands compassion, self-awareness and keeps herself informed about mental health. I like being the person who can help you navigate through a bad phase.
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But deep in depression for many weeks now, I have found myself very alone. I have tried my grounding techniques, meditation and coping mechanisms. But that’s the thing about being in the middle of severely bad mental health – nothing can convince you that you aren’t utterly broken. I have been neglecting work and physical health, doubting my creativity, stressing over every small thing and spiralling into a dark place of negativity, self-destruction and no motivation. Staying home for 19 days is not romantic, it’s not a beautiful story of a troubled artist who in the end overcomes her hurdles – it’s ugly. Having no social interaction for weeks because you are wallowing in your depression is – constant back pains, not brushing for days, not changing into fresh clothes, headaches and a lot of “what’s the point in this?”. As someone who does not have a conventional family system and hardly has any concrete social attachments, I majorly depend on my sister for help and emotional support. Now when she isn’t emotionally available due to work and life, I don’t know where to go. I am struggling to find the resources I need. All these years, I have learnt to give help but I am not sure how to ask for it. In all honesty, I am not even sure what will help.
This piece of writing does not have a happy ending, it does not particularly have a sad ending either. I guess it’s just an attempt at being honest about how “not okay” I am.
When the people in your life look up to you as a “mental health role model” it’s difficult to come out as a person who just feels defeated and broken. A person who cannot be there to help right now. The truth about mental illness is that it’s an ongoing process – at times you are functioning and in control, and sometimes the irrational thoughts take over and you feel like you don’t really have control. But the popular and glorified narrative of “overcoming mental illness” is quite problematic – in reality, the conversation matters the most when one’s in the thick of it. I have made great progress in understanding my patterns and working through trauma. I am a mental health advocate and firmly believe in educating the people around me about mental illness. But I am not and have never wanted to be a role model. I struggle with toxic behaviour, do the wrong things, self-destruct and have spent weeks isolating myself and not reaching out.
Because I have been here before, I know that sooner or later I will find clarity, peace and solutions. I understand I will be in a better place. But that’s not what this is about. This is about now. Sitting in my bed this evening as the sun softens in the sky – here, things are not okay. The unwavering hopelessness in my head is convincing me that nothing is going to be alright and that I am taking all the wrong turns in life. This piece of writing does not have a happy ending, it does not particularly have a sad ending either. I guess it’s just an attempt at being honest about how “not okay” I am. I am not sure how to receive help but I’m working on it and it’s exhausting. So, if you’re reading this maybe ask me how I am. Tell me about something that makes you happy in the world. Tell me you know this will work out in the grand scheme of things. And I will try to accept your kindness.
I hope you are well.
Featured Image Credits: Marie Caulliez/Alamy